One man, 52 Christmas movies, one must be watched every week or the challenge is lost. Welcome to The Christmas Movie Challenge.
After last week’s harsh reminder of exactly how awful the Star Wars Holiday Special really was, I needed merriment; I needed John Lithgow in an over the top performance as a scheming toy manufacturing executive. Granted this may sound like a very specific criteria, but thankfully 1985’s Santa Claus The Movie contains such a performance.
Unlike other Christmas films, this one explores the origins of Santa himself (not in a Rare Exports kind of way though). Beginning in the 14th century, we see how a simple woodcutter became the jolly giver of gifts, the mystery of how the reindeer fly is answered and the story of how they came to live in the North Pole is told.
Dudley Moore plays his trusty elf Patch, who turns out to be less trusty and more inventive as he goes it alone to try and use the skills he learnt making toys for Santa to make a name for himself. All the time he is blind to the fact he might be destroying Christmas for everybody else.
Patch meets unscrupulous toy manufacturer and all round Christmas bastard B.Z (John Lithgow), the maniacal schemer is using Patch to take control of Christmas and sets about stealing all of the elf’s ideas and selling them.
Okay, so it’s not a great film by any means. I have truly cherished memories of watching this one Christmas Eve sitting on the sofa, the Christmas tree lights giving off a warming cozy feeling and the excitement of the next day was all too much to contain.
Lithgow, oh were do I start. I have a lot of time for this man, from Harry and The Hendersons, Dexter, Raising Cain (so underrated, so hammy!), 3rd Rock From the Sun, to his performance in Rise of the Planet of The Apes that brought tears to my eyes. He’s the pantomime villain, he gets to over act, shout and be generally unpleasant and yet we love him for it.
There’s the token Christmas happy ending, and of course Patch learns a valuable lesson and Christmas is saved for us all. Although, after Lithgow eats a candy cane and starts floating up into the atmosphere to certain death, Santa could of at least saved him; there’s nothing Christmassy about asphyxiation.